Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category
Our courts need a “culture of performance-based innovation” in order to reduce public dissatisfaction, a Minnesota judge and a co-author write in a Governing magazine essay.
Hennepin County District Judge Kevin Burke and Babak Armajani, chair for the Public Strategies Group, are authors of the commentary, entitled “Creating the Courts Americans Want.” And what Americans want, they say, is courts “that are as good as their promise by being fair, efficient and effective.”
On Tuesday, April 2, Gavel Grab will be dark due to an all-day Justice at Stake staff retreat.
Gavel Grab will take a break until Jan. 2. Happy holidays to all our readers.
A recent decree by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, and its inherent threat to judicial independence, has sparked protests by tens of thousands in the streets of Cairo. The face-off between Egypt’s courts and its president has drawn international attention.
Last week, Morsi issued a decree exempting almost all of his decisions from judicial review until a new constitution, currently the subject of voting in a special assembly, is ratified. On Thursday, heavy street protests over Morsi’s action extended into a seventh straight day.
“Whoever does not respect the judiciary is not fit to rule Egypt,” one protestor in Tahrir Square, Ekramy al-Sayed Abdou, told the Washington Post.
A spokesman for the Supreme Constitutional Court said, “The court will not be intimidated by any threats or blackmail and will not submit to any pressures practiced on it from any direction, regardless of its power and unity.” The court has authority to interpret laws and presidential decrees. Read more
Forty-one percent of people polled about their views on the courts said they had doubts whether civil courts produce fair results, according to a Blog of Legal Times post.
The blog reported on a poll released by DRI — The Voice of the Defense Bar, a JAS partner group. Nine percent of respondents were very confident in “just and fair” outcomes issuing from civil courts, and 16 percent had no confidence that civil courts brought fair outcomes.
Although respondents saw judges as more fair than juries, 64 percent signaled a preference for a jury trial over a trial by a judge alone.
The poll results suggested that “a surprisingly large number of Americans are not confident in civil justice system,” said John Kouris, executive director for DRI.
A North Carolina judge has commuted the death sentence of convicted murderer Marcus Robinson on the grounds that “racial bias tainted his trial and sentencing.” Robinson will now serve life in prison without parole, reports NPR.
In what the Los Angeles Times called a “landmark ruling,” Superior Court Judge Gregory Weeks said prosecutors engaged in a systematic pattern of discrimination during jury selection, adding that “race was a materially, practically and statistically significant factor in the decision to exercise preemptory challenges.” That was enough, he said, “to support an inference of intentional discrimination.”
The ruling was the first under North Carolina’s Racial Justice Act, a 2009 law that allows judges to reduce death sentences to life in prison when defendants show that racial prejudice improperly affected the outcome. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, a Michigan State University study found that “North Carolina prosecutors were twice as likely to remove qualified Black jurors from jury service as other jurors, even after the researchers controlled for alternative explanations such as criminal background or reservations about imposing a death sentence.”
Prosecutors lambasted the law as a “back-door attempt” to overturn the death penalty.
The Racial Justice Act was established with the intention of eliminating such racial discrimination in North Carolina’s justice system. According to a Charlotte Observer article, Republican leaders have vowed to try to repeal the Racial Justice Act, regardless of Weeks’ ruling. House Speaker Thom Tillis and House Majority Leader Paul Stam released a statement calling the law a moratorium on the death penalty in North Carolina. They said it allowed a convicted murderer to “evade justice.”
Meanwhile, Democrats have said Weeks’ ruling shows “that the law is working as it should.” House Minority Leader Joe Hackney said that sentencing Robinson to life in prison without parole is appropriate. “The courts corrected a death sentence in which race played a significant role,” he said.
In these other dispatches about fair and impartial courts:
- On Thursday, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia spoke to Wesleyan University students and faculty on the merits of a strict Constitutional interpretation for deciding tough legal questions, reports an Associated Press article. Following his speech, protesters flung condoms into the crowd that carried pro-gay rights and pro-abortion messages.
- According to a Palm Beach Post article, Florida’s courts will receive a $4 million budget boost to aid the state’s foreclosure backlog with additional justices and case managers. However, other states such as Alabama are still experiencing a lack of funding which has led to delays in high-profile cases, writes the Associated Press.
- 23-year-old Andrew Joseph Dennehy opened fire on a Tulsa County Courthouse on Wednesday, injuring a sheriff’s deputy and a bystander, reports CBS News. Dennehy was taken into custody after exchanging gunfire with deputies.
- According to a Los Angeles Times Op-Ed, a new California law asking judges to provide information on their sexual orientation is an intrusion into the judges’ private lives, and “insidious in its potential impact.” A Bay Area Reporter article says that the law sheds light on the LGBT population in the state’s judiciary, and may help further diversity on the courts.
Today at 3 p.m. Eastern time a live webcast on Citizens United’s impact on judicial elections will be presented by the University of California, Irvine, Law School chapter of the American Constitution Society.
Here is a program description: Controversial for many reasons, the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision has raised particular concern over the role of campaign contributions and unlimited spending in judicial elections. Join UCI’s Dean Erwin Chemerinsky and Prof. Rick Hasen, and Prof. James Sample of Hofstra, for a lively discussion of the impact of Citizens United on judicial elections.
Gavel Grab extends Holiday Greetings to its readers. The staff is taking a short break, and Gavel Grab will resume updating news about fair and impartial courts on Jan. 3, 2012.
In these other dispatches about fair and impartial courts:
- The Supreme Court set March 26 to March 28 as the days it will hear arguments challenging the constitutionality of the new federal health care law, according to a Wall Street Journal article.
- Rep. Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., called it “ossified & anti-democratic” that the Supreme Court is resisting permitting TV cameras to broadcast the health care arguments, The Hill reported.
- “Gableman voted with law firm after receiving free legal services,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported about state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, who is the target of a new ethics controversy (see Gavel Grab).